Nine New England cottontail rabbits were bred at a zoo in Rhode Island to help rebuild the population of the endangered species in New Hampshire. The bunnies came from the Roger Williams Zoo and will over winter in an outdoor facility in Newington, N.H. prior to their release. Here are more details as reported in the Providence Journal.
Once common throughout the Northeast, the New England cottontail population has decreased dramatically over the past half century as development of land and natural forest growth have cut into its available habitat.
Projects are under way to restore 2,000 acres of shrubland habitat across New Hampshire for the rabbit by 2030. This winter, biologists are providing supplemental food and will be monitoring areas where wild New England cottontails are known to occur. The native rabbits are 15 to 17 inches long with a brown and gray coat that does not change color with the seasons. They often have a black spot between the ears and a black line on the edge of the ears.
The population of the cottontails is now concentrated in five separate areas, including southern New Hampshire and along the New Hampshire and Maine coasts. Other current habitats are in southeastern Massachusetts and along Connecticut’s borders with New York and Rhode Island.
All six states are working to create additional habitat, but only New Hampshire and Maine feature the rabbit on their state lists of endangered species. The rabbit is extinct in Vermont. It is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
You may read the complete report online at http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/12/ri-born-rabbits-to-help-rebuild-the-species-in-new-hampshire.html
Because the main reason for the decline in the population of New England cottontails is the destruction of their habitat, Hoppington Post wonders whether breeding them in zoos and releasing them back into the wild will be enough to move the bunnies off the endangered list. Surely a better thing would be for habitat restoration, but perhaps that is too much to hope for these days.